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Last Updated: Saturday, 31 May, 2003, 22:30 GMT 23:30 UK
Doubt cast on Mau Mau hero
General Stanley Mathenge, a commander in the Mau Mau independence movement
The new arrival has sown confusion in Nairobi

A Mau Mau freedom fighter who was given a hero's welcome when he arrived in Kenya to attend independence celebrations may not be who people think he is.

General Stanley Mathenge - who led resistance against the British in the 1950s - was believed to have returned to Kenya on Friday for the first time in 47 years.

At age 84, he had been invited by President Mwai Kibaki to attend ceremonies marking 40 years of independence.

I have no idea what Mau is as I was not involved in the liberation struggle
Ato Lemma Ayanu

However, the wizened man who arrived at Nairobi airport has admitted he has no idea about Mau Mau tradition and has never set foot in Kenya before, according to one newspaper report.

"I have no idea what Mau is as I was not involved in the liberation struggle," he was quoted as saying in Ethiopia's Reporter newspaper.

The Reporter says he is not in fact the revered Mau Mau warrior, but Ato Lemma Ayanu, a farmer who lives on the outskirts of Addis Ababa.

Doubts apparently arose when he addressed the crowd - in the official Ethiopian Amharic language - saying that he believed he was related to the general, who left 47 years earlier.

Chaotic welcome

General Stanley Mathenge, a commander in the Mau Mau independence movement
The alleged veteran independence warrior received a hero's welcome
Dignitaries were at the airport to meet the Mau Mau leader and chaos broke when a crowd of former freedom fighters battled with police to see catch a glimpse of him.

General Mathenge's sister, Martha Nyawira, was unable to shake hands with him, reports Kenya's East African Standard.

Speaking only Amharic, which was translated into English by the Ethiopian ambassador to Kenya Muradi Mussa, he said he was overwhelmed by his reception.

"I am so delighted to be back home. I thank Kenyans for their ungrudging hospitality," the man at the airport on Friday had told a crowd of about 300 people.

The real General Mathenge - and it is still not certain whether this is he or not - was a commander in the Mau Mau independence movement.

He fled Kenya in 1956 after the nominal leader of the movement, Dedan Kimathi, was captured and executed by the British colonial power.

He had the rank of general bestowed on him after he returned from service in Burma in the Second World War.

He and 28 other fighters fled to Ethiopia, with the hope of getting support there, but they never returned.

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Timeline: Kenya
07 May 03  |  Country profiles

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